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Retired administrators question Washington County school board candidates

October 16, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

General Election: Nov. 4

HAGERSTOWN -- The Retired Washington County Administrators Association on Wednesday questioned the eight candidates for four Board of Education seats on everything from teacher pay to whether it was appropriate for a principal to wear jeans to school.

The candidates overwhelmingly said teachers deserved more money, and they strongly disagreed with an administrator dressing so casually.

The forum was at Always Ron's in Hagerstown.

Here is a sample of comments made by the candidates vying for the open seats in the Nov. 4 general election:

Donna Brightman, 56, of southern Washington County, said she anticipates less money for Washington County Public Schools from state and federal sources in the next budget cycle. She said statewide cuts for K-12 education were discussed Wednesday to cope with a growing deficit. Brightman, the board's vice president, recommended that every department start from scratch, examining each expenditure in a "zero base budget," and officials should not expect even a 1 percent spending increase.

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Jacqueline B. Fischer, 62, of Clear Spring, said the school district's top three priorities should be: advancing student achievement; providing safe, up-to-date facilities and recruiting and retaining the best teachers and administrators. Fischer, who has served on the board, stressed energy-efficient and environmentally friendly school construction projects.

W. Edward Forrest, 45, of Hagerstown, said he's running for another term because of his passionate support of education. He said he'll bring needed experience as a parent of children attending local schools. Forrest said he'd build on the success in student achievement, rich curriculum, textbook replacement and other initiatives from his previous seven years on the board.

Meredith Fouche, 57, of Sharpsburg, said his top priority is a reading intervention teacher for every elementary school, not just the eight Title I schools. This would create 18 new positions, which Fouche said will be impossible in just one budget year. Fouche also wants to reduce the number of portable classrooms and secure more grant money.

Justin Hartings, 37, of Keedysville, has two children attending local schools and another one who will enroll in kindergarten next year. He stressed the importance of electing a parent to the school board. He also said the district should have more internships for students, particularly in biotech companies, like the one he owns. Hartings also advocated for tests as a tool to help every child achieve, not an "excuse for a race to the middle."

Margaret Lowery, 61, of Halfway, said she has a diverse background in education and a business. Lowery is also involved in gang prevention and helps with an after-school program and teen pregnancy prevention. Lowery said she'd like to see all programs meet established goals and the school system use cost-effective management practices.

Wayne D. Ridenour, 57, of Williamsport, taught locally for 30 years and said it's important that the district continue "doing great things" that have received federal and state honors. Ridenour, a current board member, said teaching is becoming more difficult due to state and federal mandates. He said "good people" are the most important ingredient for success and quality teachers should be recruited and retained.

Russell F. Williams II, 65, of Hagerstown, said his expertise about the county's poorest residents affects how he views school policies. He said the creation of magnet and specialty programs in the Hagerstown area made him wonder how Hancock students would use those programs without free transportation. Williams said the board should have greater input on policies, instead of leaving that duty up to a subcommittee.

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